An introduction to streaming devices

You’ve made the choice to to dive into the world of streaming TV service, and now you need a streaming media device. Let’s take a closer look at what these devices do and some of the top options to consider as you shop.  

What is a streaming device? 

A streaming media device connects your TV or home theater to the internet, allowing you to stream content (video, music, movies and sports) through a streaming TV service provider or app.

A smart TV is a essentially a television with streaming apps built in. In many cases, you won’t need a separate remote or added device, since it’s all contained within the smart TV.  

A dedicated streaming media device, like an Apple TV or Roku, offers an impressive range of options for viewing content on your TV. And, as long as your TV has an HDMI port, you won’t need to buy a whole new television. These handy devices typically come pre-loaded with dozens of the most popular streaming "channels" (essentially apps), and you can add more when you want to. When you turn them on, they are fully configured, making these devices a convenient option. 

Finally, many Blu-ray players and newer video game consoles also act as streaming devices, with a few limitations. If you already own one of these, it’s worth considering as it may save you buying an additional piece of equipment.

How do streaming devices work? 

Streaming devices generally work the same way, though the size and shape may vary. Most of them are simple to set up — you connect the device to your television with an HDMI cable (or, in the case of a “stick” device, directly into the HDMI port). Then you connect it to your home WiFi service (or your modem/router). The content you subscribed to will now stream through your television set. 

A “casting” device (like Google Chromecast and others) works a little bit differently. With these, you play your desired media on another device such as a laptop or tablet. The device then transmits the media over your WiFi connection and displays it on your TV, allowing you to enjoy it on a larger screen.

Most streaming devices also allow you to browse a huge range of additional channels that you can add to access different content. Some channels require their own paid subscription, while others are free. You will also find a mix of both live streaming services and on-demand services available on your device. Even better, streaming devices aren’t just for video – most also allow you to listen to music through streaming services, view your online photos and more.

Top brands of streaming devices 

There are a lot of devices to choose from, and your choice will most likely be based on a combination of price, features, and included services. But in the end, they all serve the same essential function, which is to deliver streaming services to your TV. 

Some of the top brands are:

Amazon Fire Box-style Fire TV and stick-style Fire Stick (requires Amazon Prime subscription)
Apple TV HD and 4K options (requires Apple TV subscription)
Google Chromecast Stick that plays streaming content from another connected device on your TV
Roku Multiple box-style options available and Streaming Stick
Xbox One S Online gaming console that can also stream video

There are many choices out there for streaming media devices, and new streaming products continue to hit the market every year, which generally keeps prices competitive. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with all the choices available, and not all devices are the same. So do the research to find out what each one offers, what will work with the TV and equipment you already have, and what your budget will allow. With a great set of choices in the marketplace, you’re sure to find a device that’s right for you. 

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